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Ministers must rethink decision to cut air discount scheme — McArthur

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur will use a debate in the Scottish Parliament today, Thursday, to highlight the “isolating” effect Scottish Government cuts to the Air Discount Scheme is having on island and other rural communities in the Highlands and Islands.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Mr McArthur said: “Communities such as Orkney rely heavily on their lifeline air services. Historically, though, the cost of accessing these services has been significant.

“That is why, in 2006, Tavish Scott introduced an Air Discount Scheme to help island and rural communities across the Highlands & Islands compete on a more level playing field with counterparts further south.

“SNP ministers were happy to extend this scheme at the start of the last parliament, recognising the enormous value, not least to local businesses. In April, however, they decided to remove any and all work-related travel from the scheme, citing problems with EU competition rules.

“This justification has proved to be a smokescreen. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government’s decision threatens the competitiveness of many businesses in the islands, and risks isolating local charities, voluntary groups and public bodies, unable to afford the cost of attending events and networking opportunities on the Scottish mainland.

“These concerns are borne out by the findings of a survey which Tavish Scott and I carried out in Orkney and Shetland over the summer. Tomorrow’s debate on a motion that has attracted support from across all the main political parties will be a further opportunity to urge ministers to re-think their decision to cut the Air Discount Scheme.”

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